Why Corbyn’s silent National Anthem does actually matter


The idiocy of the British media over the past few days has been hysterical, in both senses. It is rather ironic that after all the dire warnings about Jeremy Corbyn taking us back to the eighties, it has actually been the media doing that, recreating a ridiculous moral panic over Michael Foot’s choice of coat at the Cenotaph with all the enthusiasm and attention to detail of a chapter of the Sealed Knot. This is so like living through 1982 again that I am contemplating popping down to the bookies and putting a tenner on Renée and Renato to be Christmas number one.

Like most on the left, I have spent the past 12 hours or so laughing and shaking my head at the silliness of it all. However last night, as I laid my head on my pillow and turned out the lights, it suddenly occurred to me that I was wrong. This is not just Hanna-Barbera silliness, Corbyn declining to move his lips along to the National Anthem does actually matter. It is important. It is deeply symbolic. Just not in the way that everyone from the Sun to the BBC is insisting.

The Labour Party chose Jeremy Corbyn to be its leader for many reasons, but perhaps the strongest and most important was the sense that this country is crying out for a politician who says what he believes and believes what he says. This country is crying out for a politician who is driven by principle, who acts with sincerity, who behaves with honesty, rather than chasing the whims of the latest focus group.

There are already opinion pieces floating around the liberal media saying ‘this has been a disaster, Jeremy needs a spin doctor to tell him how to behave’ which completely misses the point. Corbyn was elected by a landslide precisely because he doesn’t behave the way some amoral special advisor from PPE Oxford would tell him to.

It is striking that Corbyn today is not being savaged because he doesn’t believe in God and doesn’t particulary believe in the monarchy. On those scores he is in keeping with large swathes of the population. He is being savaged for failing to put on a charade of pointlessly moving his lips and mumbling along to some lyrics which are meaningless, if not downright offensive, to him.

The British people are going to have to make a choice in the coming months and years. Do we want yet another politician who will set aside personal beliefs and personal principles because it is politically convenient and good PR, or do we want a fundamental change in how our political system operates? We cannot have it both ways.

I, for one, am sick to the back teeth of politicians who, when Murdoch, Rothermere or the Barclay brothers say “jump” reply “how high?”

I do not want another Labour leader who is little more than a puppet for corporate interests, for the establishment, for tradition, for the way things have always been done.

Had Corbyn swallowed his principles yesterday and compromised in order to placate the Rottweilers of the media and the political establishment, then he would have taken their shilling. He would have sent a message that yes, he too will dance to their tune, however petty and pointless the jig might be.

My first reaction was that the National Anthem business was a ridiculous non-story, one that could be laughed off. On the contrary, while it may have been trivial and petty, it was also symbolic. It was a test. And it was a test that Jeremy Corbyn passed with flying colours.

Comments

  1. lelapaletute says

    Damn right.

    Never has it been thrown into such sharp relief for me that the ‘free press’ we’re all so proud of and wave around to ‘less developed’ countries as a cornerstone of our democratic society, is actually nothing of the kind. It is a bought press, bought and paid for by the rich and powerful, an attack dog for their interests. Even the papers who are not blatantly in hock to right wing millionaires like the Graun and the Indy are rattled by Corbyn and battening down the hatches for the benefit of the Left’s own Great and Good, whose comfortable lives are threatened by the sea change in public opinion that Corbyn represents. There is no objectivity, no attempt at fairness.

    Not a word I use often, but it is, genuinely, a disgrace.

  2. Pete says

    Talk like this of “tests” makes me despair. Corbyn might as well give up tomorrow if his own supporters are going to hold him to impossible standards of purity. At some point – if he lasts long enough in the job – he will fail one of your tests and do something you perceive as an awful compromise, either for PR/electioneering purposes or because one of his policies fails a confrontation with economic reality. Cut him some slack.

  3. says

    Spot on.

    From the age of about 6 years, I have wondered — and nobody has ever been able to give me a satisfactory explanation — why grown-ups continue to make such a show of pretending to believe in a God.

    As a republican, I find the words to the better-known verses of “God Save the Queen” meaningless — and the rest deeply offensive.

    Jeremy Corbyn has shown that he is quite willing to stand up for his own principles, not defer to some romanticised ideal (especially one we can’t even properly explain why we romanticise it). And how that deserves anything besides praise is a mystery to me.

  4. anubisprime says

    Absolutely agreed.
    And the abject fear and shock of Corbyn’s ascendancy to the top dog spot in the labour party is palpable from all the politically affiliated muppets that thought they had a nice cushy number for life…

    Corbyn has suddenly given the proletariat a viable reason to actually vote…and the dumb hicks in parliament are terrified about what that means.
    Because the reality is almost every politician in parliament that tows the leadership line in the recent past are to a toad thoroughly distrusted if not actually hated by the majority of the populace,

    They are to a clone, dull, fatuous, ignorant and rather detached from the reality of peoples lives out in the real world. When the labour party was voted in after 18 yrs in the wilderness in 1997 people genuinely voted for a change to the political diet.
    They wanted socially funded education and health to be restored to what it can be…insead they got bland and corporate, they were betrayed, they got PPI in everything, they got G4s and Serco corruption, they got private companies cherry picking everything not nailed down to turn a penny or ten at tax payers expense, and they got market forces rammed down their throats…

    They got the abomination of zero hour contracts for virtually any job and as a way to pay below minimum wage….like it or fuck off…their aspirations were actually raped in front of their eyes.

    Not so much a mistake just extremely disappointing, boring and ultimately just Tory light.

    Then they wonder why Labour lost every election since Blair…they blew it by losing the very principle on which they were formed in the 19th century, and in the scrabble for power they compromised themselves to death.

    The Lib Dems got wiped out for the exact same crime at the last election.
    It is what happens when the public see that integrity has left the party, they are not amused.

    And that is a terror of an honest politician has returned in a landslide …a party that has an ethical and moral basis and a leader with integrity that will whip the back sliding traitors back into shape…
    oh the horror oh the unfairness…
    The elite political classes can not compete with that, a ethically run party and policy format, and they know it, and they are sad and worried they are going to lose the nice cushy little status quo they so diligently worked to manipulate to their personal comfort.
    Corbyn will shake them to the core, and so he should, he will just have to keep an eye on the back stabbers that want the ‘good old days’ of playing Tory wannabes with the cover of pretending they are ‘the peoples party…

    because they have not been that for a long time.

  5. Ally Fogg says

    Pete [3]

    i take your point but personally I have no problem with necessary compromises. Appointing the Blairite Charlie Falconer as shadow MOJ/Lord Chancellor is a compromise, one which I don’t like. Joining the Privy Council is something of a necessary compromise. i am not going to like every decision he makes, nor will anyone.

    So it is not the case that every decision must be a test and he must pass every one to retain support. It is more about laying down a marker that he is not going to necessarily dance to the tabloid’s tune at every turn.

  6. Pete says

    The BBC is now reporting Labour as saying that Corbyn will sing the anthem at future events. So he’s even failing your specific, important test. Still support him? Hope so, because if he’s going to succeed there will be a thousand more cases like this.

  7. sonofrojblake says

    They got the abomination of zero hour contracts for virtually any job and as a way to pay below minimum wage

    In fairness, they got the minimum wage, too.

  8. says

    “You cannot hope to bribe or twist
    (thank God!) the British journalist.
    But, seeing what the man will do
    unbribed, there’s no occasion to.”
    H Wolfe
    (Though I think he may have got the unbribeortwistability wrong.)
     
    Just think, if he became PM and Bernie became Prez, what a lovely couple they’d make: might even undo some of the rot that started with that other ‘lovely’ couple, Reagan and the Milk Snatcher!!

  9. StillGjenganger says

    Well, there are two points about Jeremy Corbyn. One is that he has clear beliefs and will stand by them. That is good. The other is that the beliefs he has are very much in opposition to most of the society that he is now proposing to govern. That is more problematical. One could live with a PM who personally believes that bin Laden’s death is a tragedy on par with the World trade centre deaths, or that Hamas and Hezbollah are friendly allies in the cause of good, or that the current head of state deserves nothing better than public contempt – if he keeps his personal views discreetly apart from acting on behalf of his (shadow) cabinet. If he insists on promoting those views on behalf of the opposition or (in the future) the nation, the majority who disagree with him will find it hard to tolerate.

    If you wanted a man who would strictly follow his convictions, it might have been better to choose someone with convictions that were just a little less at odds with the entire system.

  10. StillGjenganger says

    Anyway, if he is too much against the UK constitutional arrangements to join in the charade, should he really sully his credibility by being part of Her Majesty’s Opposition, let alone government? Why not do like Sinn Fein, and show he is true to his principles by refusing to serve in parliament?

  11. Thil says

    There’s a reason politicians don’t give substantive answers. Nobody has views or convictions that everyone will agree with, if a politician speaks there mind before too long eventually they’re going to do or say something that’ll turn the public against them.

  12. Marduk says

    The interesting thing about Corbyn (and I suspect Bernie and even Trump) is that we’ve suspected for a while that old media is going to lose its grip and for me this is early evidence of it. Time was your priest told you what to think, then the king, then the media, now perhaps it is the internet. At each stage the opinion former game has been liberalised. I can remember knowing people for whom adopting what the Mail (before it was a tabloid) leader told them to think was how they navigated the world. I don’t mean that in a snide way either, its explicitly what they did and what they thought everyone else did. You’re a Mail man or maybe you are a Union man or whatever, being told what to think was something we’ve only recently started to kick against when you think about it.

    It doesn’t surprise me young people who have never got into the habit of reading a newspaper leader (today newspapers are just one of a billion webpage producers to them) are flocking to Corbyn who has no support at all in any quarter of the old media. This isn’t just surprising, its something that under any other circumstances would be impossible. It could never have happened in the 70s or the 80s for example. The question for me is whether older people are following a similar evolution quickly enough.

    So for me it isn’t really about how Corbyn gets attacked, there isn’t an argument that can be won or anyone open to persuasion. Its more about how quickly the old media continues to lose sway. If anything the more they rage at him, the less reaosnable this gets, the more that people who understand media as a ‘thing’ (and younger people are very good at this very early) feel sympathetic to him.

  13. lelapaletute says

    One could live with a PM who personally believes that bin Laden’s death is a tragedy on par with the World trade centre deaths

    Corbyn doesn’t. ‘A tragedy upon a tragedy’ does not imply equivalence, just that they are both tragedies (and I’m sure we can all agree an extra-judicial killing is a tragedy for justice if not at any other level).,

    or that Hamas and Hezbollah are friendly allies in the cause of good

    Corbyn doesn’t. He referred to them as ‘friends’ in the context of attempting to rpomote a dialogue towards peace. If we have learned nothing else from the middle east conflict, surely it is that monstering your opponent and refusing to engage with them does nothing but prolong and increase the suffering and waste of life.

    or that the current head of state deserves nothing better than public contempt

    Corbyn didn’t. He is an agnostic and a republican. To sing the damn song would have been hypocritical. Not to sing a song about the Christian God saving the English queen does not imply disrespect for the queen as a person, or even as a comment on how she fulfils her role as head of state – it is expressing peaceful dissent about the validity of that role, and peaceful resistance to the enforcement of compulsory religion. To take that as ‘contempt’ is jingoism of the first water, not to mention religious oppression. I refused to sing religious hymns in secondary school, as I was an atheist. Was this ‘disrespectful’, or the exercise of my right to freedom of religion?

    Someone’s been swallowing that Tory video whole, I fear. Would have expected better of you.

    As to the rest of your argument, Corbyn’s views may not be in line with ‘the majority’. But neither are Cameron’s. Cameron just plays the game better. The whole point is, no-one wants the game anymore. We want the truth.

  14. StllGjenganger says

    @Lelapaletute 13.
    I did not se the video (I prefer text) so I tried to Google Corbyn’s original words. Nothing like proper transcript anywhere, but from what I did find I disagree with you:

    Corbyn: “no attempt whatsoever that I can see to arrest him and put him on trial, to go through that process”. He went on: “This was an assassination attempt, and is yet another tragedy, upon a tragedy, upon a tragedy. […] “The World Trade Center was a tragedy, the attack on Afghanistan was a tragedy, the war in Iraq was a tragedy. Tens of thousands of people have died.[…]”

    Whatever you might get out of a formal logic analysis, the message coming across here is that these were all equally tragedies, and equally part a single, tragic course of events that could and should have been avoided. And, implicitly, that the blame for it all goes equally to many participants and does not particularly belong to Bin Laden. It is not in the quote, but it is a reasonable hypothesis that Corbyn blames the US for the entire course of evens (twin towers included) as much as he blames Bin Laden.
    For illustration: Suppose Anders Bering Breivik had been shot down resisting arrest after his massacre. It would take some fairly weird politics for anyone to say: “This was an assassination attempt, and is yet another tragedy, upon a tragedy. […] “The Utoya deaths were a tragedy, and the death of Breivik is a tragedy”.

    The “friends” reference to designated groups came from 2009, when Corbyn announced at an “anti-war” rally:
    “It will be my pleasure and my honour to host an event in Parliament where our friends from Hezbollah will be speaking. I also invited friends from Hamas to come and speak as well. … That is the absolutely the right function of using parliamentary facilities to invite people from our other parts of the world. … The idea that an organization that is dedicated to the good of the Palestinian people…should be labelled as a terrorist organization by the British government is really a big, big historical mistake.”

    This does not say that he agrees with the goals of the Hamas charter or all of their methods, but he does, publicly, position himself, the rally he is speaking to, Hamas, and Hezbollah as all friends working on the same side for some of the same goals. Which sounds likely enough to be true. Consider: If he is only interested in getting people to talk, has he ever said anything that would get his radical Israeli settler ‘friends’ to the table? What would happen to a politician who introduced his ‘friends’ from the Ku Klux Klan, all in the interest of a dialogue on racial equality, of course?

    the current head of state deserves nothing better than public contempt

    OK, I got carried away by my rhetoric, here. ‘Contempt’ is not right. But the theatre and symbolism of monarchy, ‘God Save the Queen’ etc. is part of the way the nation is governed. You cannot be both rebel and prime minister (in waiting. To illustrate: A fair few people these days find it very hard on their conscience to celebrate gay marriages, which they consider an abomination. I have a certain amount of sympathy for them, but even I have to acknowledge that you cannot sign up for a job that requires you to marry gay couples on behalf of the state, and then refuse to do the job because of your personal conscience. I your principles do not allow you to marry gays, you cannot take the job. And if Corbyn’s principles do not allow him to sing ‘God Save the Queen’, he really ought to stick to a job that does not require him to participate in the ceremonial.

  15. anubisprime says

    sonofrojblake @ 7

    In fairness, they got the minimum wage, too.

    Which the Tories resisted with vengeance and in fact totally detest.
    According to them the sky would fall down when it was introduced…funny that it didn’t….that took the Tory minions in the Banks to achieve that particular little Armageddon.

    Anyway the present government are happy to see it circumvented by companies that insist on only offering zero hour contracts…
    The Tory administration is happy to pick up the slack with tax credits and top up benefits…if claimants are lucky, so that companies get their workforce partially financed by the tax payer.

    And some of the favorite sons of Tory run business even insist that no other job may be sought because it would compromise the flexibility of the work contract.
    And as per contract there is no guarantee of income…not even minimum wage.
    And some claimants are sanctioned for refusing to accept this pig in a poke slave labour contract nonsense.
    .

  16. proudmra says

    It could be that there are conservatives who value tradition more than substance. (And by ‘could be’, I mean “obviously are.”)

    Their argument boils down to “I don’t care if he actually believes in our state church… heck, I don’t even believe in it. But if he wants to run this country, he’d damn well better PRETEND to believe in it, like all our officials before him have!”

  17. StllGjenganger says

    @ProudMRA 18
    Not quite. He is free to make it clear, at other times, that he is both an atheist and a republican. And to try to get the national anthem changed. No need to pretend anything. But these various rituals are built into the way the country is run and as long as they are in force it is part of his office to play along. He is not just ‘Jeremy Corbyn’, he is the leader of he opposition.

  18. EigenSprocketUK says

    So it seems that Corbyn’s clarification was that, in future, he would “take part fully” in similar remembrance events. Hmmm. Personally, I hope that this doesn’t mean that he sells out and sings. I hope he comes up with a good way to show that he is, first and foremost, respecting those who made an ultimate sacrifice — not just going through the ritual, ineffectual, mumblings of anthems and prayers. Too many people seem to think that all you have to do is turn up (not wearing a shabby coat), say the prayers, sing the anthem. They think merely that (and nothing more) is what the dead soldiers died for.
    When Corbyn took part, and he thought about real people (including his own family) making real sacrifices, and why they did it, he did more than most people ever bother to do.

  19. EigenSprocketUK says

    @StllGjenganger 16&20: if you asked 1000 people in the street to come up with a list of essential job requirements for a political party leader and/or a prime minister, I bet you that not a single person would include the requirement to sing “God save the queen”. It all sounds a bit fascist to me to think that you’d be able to force someone to do that.

  20. EigenSprocketUK says

    Of course, after today, everyone’s going to demand shiny shoes, tie, nice coat (no Parkas) six anthem verses, and a red (only red) poppy no later than 1st October. And whatever else it is that politicians are supposed to do.

  21. Thil says

    “It all sounds a bit fascist to me to think that you’d be able to force someone to do that”

    it’s not like he has to appear at public events where it’s expected.

  22. Thil says

    @22 @EigenSprocketUK

    I bet none of them would say “wear shoes to work” either, some things are just assumed

  23. EigenSprocketUK says

    @Thil #24&25: all I’m saying is that some people are claiming “everyone expects” a party leader / PM to sing the national anthem because “it’s part of his office to play along”. Clearly that’s an expectation, quite a popular one, but not a job requirement.
    Like him or loathe him, I still bet that Corbyn is more sincere more respectful than pretty much everyone who’s demanding he sing a ritual song to appease everyone.

  24. Thil says

    @EigenSprocketUK

    it’s not a requirement in the sense that affects his ability to make competent leadership choices. it is a requirement in the sense that he is in a position, or at least he wants to be, where his choices lend or rob things of legitimacy. If the PM represents the people and the people want God save the Queen as their national anthem, it behooves him to sing it because not doing would rob it of legitimacy as the national anthem.

    I don’t see how being sincere is an advantage? every person i’ve ever known or known of who’s sincere about their beliefs is disliked for at least some of them. people say they want sincere principled leads, but only if said leader just happens to have the same principles they do

  25. lelapaletute says

    For anyone who hasn’t seen it, this is what Corbyn actually said about Hamas and Hezbollah in context, without the selective editing favoured by the Tories, the right wing media and Gjenganger above: https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=79&v=FQLKpY3NdeA

    Anyone watching that can see exactly what he’s getting at – that he is promoting dialogue above all other methods, and acknowledging that it is only by engaging with Hamas and Hezbollah directly that the Israel/Palestine problem will ever be resolved. Unless they choose to fixate on a bit of diplomatic language to the exclusion of all common sense. IMO.

  26. Blattafrax says

    #16 StllGjenganger says:

    Whatever you might get out of a formal logic analysis,

    Which clearly this isn’t

    the message coming across here is that these were all equally tragedies,

    Equally tragedies, but not all tragedies are equal. I personally find the Liverpool 2013/14 season; my mother’s failure to see a doctor for her hip and one of the Bee Gees’ most well known songs “tragic”. You imply that this label means they are equal to the World Trade Center destruction.

    and equally part a single, tragic course of events that could and should have been avoided.

    That’s your interpretation, not everyone would agree

    And, implicitly, that the blame for it all goes equally to many participants

    That’s your interpretation, most would not agree

    and does not particularly belong to Bin Laden. It is not in the quote, but it is a reasonable hypothesis that Corbyn blames the US for the entire course of evens (twin towers included) as much as he blames Bin Laden.

    That’s your interpretation, only an imbecile steeped in the foul smegma of right-wing politics would agree

    For illustration: Suppose Anders Bering Breivik had been shot down resisting arrest after his massacre. It would take some fairly weird politics for anyone to say: “This was an assassination attempt, and is yet another tragedy, upon a tragedy. […] “The Utoya deaths were a tragedy, and the death of Breivik is a tragedy”.

    Bin Laden wasn’t resisting arrest, it is a completely false analogy and Breivik would have been resisting arrest with firearms and a history of using them. Bin Laden was an old, unarmed man, murdered by a team of highly trained and heavily armed assassins who set out to do just that. I don’t mourn his death, but I am not happy that the US government can decide who to kill and just do it.

    On topic: There’s a place for a good national anthem. For example to help celebrate the fact of being British; to rouse the listeners or singers to greater feats out of pride for their country or (in this case) to fill in an awkward space where nothing else seems appropriate. As a mostly British, atheist, republican, like Corbyn I reject the option of using it as an act of worship towards our head of state. Good for him for not singing along and can we have a new national anthem please? The old one’s really rubbish from every point of view (unless you’re a Christian head of state with a sycophancy fetish and a taste for dirges.)

  27. StillGjenganger says

    @Blattafrax 29
    Corbyn puts Bin Ladens death. (/11, the Afghanistan war etc. on an equal footing by mentioning them together. And the point about the Breivik analogy was not whether his death was more or less justified than Bin Ladens, but that anyone mentioning Breiviks death on eual footing with that of his victims would imply that thre was not much to choose between them. As for you, if you said on TV something like. “The world trade centre was a tragedy, the Liverpool 2013/2014 season was a tragedy, my mother’s failure to see a doctor was a tragedy, and the Bee Gees song Xyz was a tragedy. I would conclude that you reckoned a couple of thousand deaths no worse than a bad song (and, indeed, that you were off your rocker).

  28. StillGjenganger says

    @Lelapaletute 28.
    The entire clip does sound gentler, admitted (though I would hardly say that the quote I found is exactly misleading). But he is doing a bit more than just ‘promoting dialogue’. He is presenting Hamas and Hezbollah (not just the Palestinian parliamentarians) as equally rightful representatives of the Palestinian people; as equally commendable as the ANC and the various historical anticolonialist movements; as dedicated to the peaceful coexistence of all peoples within Palestine, and as ‘our friends’. Neither their choice of methods, nor the extreme unlikelihood of a peaceful coexistence between peoples in a Hamas- or Hezbollah-dominated Palestine seem to worry him. Is it too much to suggest, as I said, that he thinks “that Hamas and Hezbollah [were] friendly allies in the cause of good“? Do you think he would have disagreed with that statement if he had been asked, back when he made the speech? After all he clearly shares the goal of replacing Israel with a single Jewish/Palestinian state (with an unavoidable Muslim majority).

  29. lelapaletute says

    @Gjenganger: Where are you getting all this equally from? I would argue you are interpreting that out of thin air. Certainly Corbyn doesn’t say it, and I don’t get the implication.

    After all he clearly shares the goal of replacing Israel with a single Jewish/Palestinian state (with an unavoidable Muslim majority).

    What is this based on? I may have missed it, but I didn’t realise he has ruled out a two-state solution… Not saying you’re wrong, just wondering where you got it from.

  30. StillGjenganger says

    @Lelapaletute
    Re. ‘equally’. What I got out of that speech you linked to was that Hamas and Hezbollah also were dedicated to the future well-being of the Palestinian people, that they were parts and invited, on an equal footing with Palestinian parliamentarians, and that it was not for the west to judge who should represent the Palestinians, or to declare organisations doing this good work as ‘terrorist’. Which is Hamas and Hezbollah, because the PLO was not so branded, then, was it? I would not claim he said that their legitimacy was in all respects the same as those who were elected (Hezbollah did not have members elected to the Palestinian parliament, AFAIK) but I could not hear that he made any distinction between the various ‘friends’ from Lebanon and Palestine in terms of their right to represent and fight for their people.

    As for ‘equally’ with the ANC etc. he said that Hamas and Hezbollah should have the same right to work from London without hindrance etc. as the ANC, the anticolonialists etc. had in their day. If you set up that parallel and do not add even a small qualification it sounds to me like you are presenting them on an equal footing.

    single state? Again, from the talk. Recounting and sympathising with the Palestinian dream of ‘returning’, and talking about Zionism as the thing preventing all people living happily in Palestine. He did not exactly rule out a two-state solution that I know, and he might well welcome it as better than the current situation. But getting rid of Zionism and having the Palestinians return – without any further qualification – does not sound like a two-state solution to me.

  31. Blattafrax says

    #30 StillGjenganger says:

    As for you, if you said on TV something like. “The world trade centre was a tragedy, the Liverpool 2013/2014 season was a tragedy, my mother’s failure to see a doctor was a tragedy, and the Bee Gees song Xyz was a tragedy. I would conclude that you reckoned a couple of thousand deaths no worse than a bad song (and, indeed, that you were off your rocker).

    Well, I agree with you there and since these are completely *unconnected* “tragic” things, it would be a very strange sentence. But I take it then that we have established that tragedy has different levels of seriousness?

    So can you think of another reason why Jeremy Corbyn might refer to several events in the Middle East and Eastern US in the same sentence that’s unrelated to equating their seriousness?

  32. StillGjenganger says

    @Blattafrax
    Normally I do not do exam questions in debate, but this one is easy.
    He mentions these events together because he thinks that they are part of the same conflict – as they are – and because he thinks that morally and politically there is no important difference between them. That implication is clear. He is neutral between Bin Laden and the US/west. Which, considering that we are comparing the retributive killing of a mass murderer with the several thousand innocent victims he had killed (and that his country, the UK, is party to the conflict), does say something interesting about Corbyns values.

  33. Marduk says

    Corbyn was right, it was a tragedy that Bin Laden never faced trial and punishment, he got to be a martyr instead. The fact that he was chucked in the sea afterwards showed that the US forces thought this was a bit of a problem as well (and in fact we know they did think exactly that).

    Society has generally gained a lot from the trials of various evil people, it reduces to them to what they really are. All that banality of evil stuff the emerged from the Nazi war trials for example. Watching them rant, plead and ramble did more for the anti-Nazi cause than any number of tanks. Bin Laden got the glamour of Seal Team 6 raiding his bunker, it would have been much better if he’d gone out an old forgotten man in a facility in Minnesota complaining about having his TV privileges suspended and banging out numberplates for new slippers.

    Boris Johnson agrees:

    ‘Bin Laden should be put on trial; not in Britain, but in the place where he organised the biggest and most terrible of his massacres, New York. ‘He should be put on trial, because a trial would be the profoundest and most eloquent statement of the difference between our values and his. He wanted to kill as many innocent people as he could.”

    As for “tragedy upon a tragedy” Corbyn is talking about a series of misjudgements and spiral down and again, I didn’t even think that was a controversial view at this point in time beyond the Blair breakfast table. Perhaps Cameron can explain why he believes the invasion of Iraq was a relevant reprisal for 9/11. You might remember this was the original gotcha question when the US nomination process started and proved to be impossible to answer (even Jeb who obviously knows the Decider better than most had three or four goes and made it worse each time).

    All this stuff is just trolling, if he didn’t say it and they can’t take it out of context, they’ll just make stuff up anyway. I think they are so ferocious its already impossible to take the media’s comments about him seriously. For all I know he does have some really offensive opinions but I doubt anyone is going to be able to pick them out through the wall of noise.

  34. proudmra says

    @20: “But these various rituals are built into the way the country is run ”

    Which, all by itself, is reason enough to question them if not immediately tear them down. The notion that ritual and tradition have inherent value is a pernicious one.

  35. StillGjenganger says

    @Marduk 36
    Do you think it is reasonable to de3scribe the World Trade Center attack as a ‘misjudgement’?

  36. StillGjenganger says

    @ ProudMRA.
    You are saying that everything should be changed (ir)regularly because it is pernicious to keep doing something in the same way. Do you really mean that? Most people require an actual reason for changing. And most nations use some kind of ritual to emphasize the continuity and reliability of the ongoing government process. What would be the advantage of avoiding the (considerable) ritual around the yearly budget, for instance, and publishing it a randomly varying times and in randomly varying ways instead?

  37. Marduk says

    #38

    Yes, I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who regards it as a good idea.

    I not quite sure where you are going with this.

  38. StillGjenganger says

    @Marduk 40
    It might be my English, but to me a ‘misjudgement’ means that among a number of superficially reasonable alternatives you pick what proves to be the wrong one. You could apply that to killing Bin Laden or invading Afghanistan, if you accept that the US had a strong reason to do something fairly drastic after 9/11. But applying it to 9/11 itself implies that both making the attack and not making it were at least superficially reasonable courses of action. Which is a lot more credit than I am willing to grant Bin Laden. What about you?

  39. Marduk says

    I think what I was really saying was that Corbyn was talking about a chain of events, none of which were good, all of which were bad things to have decided and carried out. You could say the same about, say, World War 1, its causes and its outcomes.

  40. ligne says

    “a chain of events, none of which were good, all of which were bad things to have decided and carried out”

    this. time after time, people have chosen to deal with their enemies by killing them*, thereby justifying the next round of killing.

    if that’s not a tragedy, i don’t know what is.

    * or those who happen to be nearby. or those who happen to look a bit similar.

  41. StillGjenganger says

    @Marduk, ligne.

    a chain of events, none of which were good, all of which were bad things to have decided and carried out

    Well, yes. But I can sum up our disagreement quite easily here. Corbyn (and, by extension, you), puts all those events on the same footing, and does not see any need to condemn the Twin towers attack any more strongly than he condemns the killing of Bin Laden. To me that shows (as someone said about Kipling) “a certain lack of outrage where outrage was called for”.
    I do not think we will get any further, but at least the argument should be clear, now.

  42. Marduk says

    “puts all those events on the same footing”

    Yes, they belong on the same footing in that they are part of a chain of events.

    Ypres was the death of 850,000 men, but that doesn’t change the fact that the assassination of one man was the kicking off point and it would be stupid to leave the death of Arch Duke Ferdinand out the discussion of WW1.

    The English language makes it impossible to reach the level of semantic purity you are demanding, play that game and nobody is innocent. I just think its a bit silly.

    You have no idea what Corbyn thinks should be condemned more strongly or not.

  43. StillGjenganger says

    @Marduk 45
    The English language is fairly imprecise, as are all other languages. In most contexts you just let it go, and work out the most likely interpretation. But when you are making a political statement. on a controversial subject you have to be quite clear. Because people will listen to what you might have said and did not, and draw conclusions from that. And then it is no good to say ‘the words do not mean that, I do not mean that, and it is your fault’. You are responsible for the most likely interpretations of your words.

    Examples:
    1) Some minister a few days ago, said that John McDonnell was Jeremy’s choice, and he had full respect for both etc. The fact that he did not profess his personal confidence in McDonnell spoke volumes, and was duly picked up.

    2) Back in the seventies, there were many on the left talking about the inhumanity of life for the working class under capitalism, the need for revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat, etc. Then when the Red Brigades, Baader-Meinhof etc. came out the words did not mean the same any longer. ‘Neither with the state nor with the Red Brigades’, as some said at first, is not a message of neutrality, but a message of qualified support for the Red Brigades. When people maim and kill for ideals similar to yours you either go clearly against them or are understood to accept, if not support them. And many, like the Italian Communist party, did come out explicitly against the Red Brigades, and accepted that they could no longer put their (perfectly legitimate) opinions in the same words they used to without de facto giving support to a violent group.

    3) Jeremy Corbyn, was not writing a history treatise, but reacting (on Iranian TV) to the death of Bin Laden just days before. He could have bemoaned the lack of a trial in many ways. That he chose to present the death of Bin Laden and the death of his victims in the same light will be taken to show that he sees them essentially in the same light. If he did not want that, it was up to him to put things differently, or be extremely clear afterwards that he did condemn Bin Laden rather more than the people who killed him. Which he has never done AFAIAA.

    Your comparison with WWI misses a point. It is the generally accepted opinion that WWI was indeed an disastrous chain of events that could not really be blamed only on any specific actor. And it is now so long ago we do not divide into ‘us’ and ‘them’ on that basis any more. WWII is different – many call it “Hitler’s war”, and those who prefer “Churchill’s war” are making a very specific political point. As for the Twin Towers …

    Anyway, I put more blame on Bin Laden than on the US. Because he and his allies were and are enemies of the country I live in, and because he made an attack and killing that was gruesome and unjustified also by the standards of war. Bin Laden had put himself in a situation where killing him could be seen as justified, in a way that the people in the US (or the World Trade Centre) had not. Do you disagree with that judgement? And does Corbyn?

  44. Blattafrax says

    #35 @StillGjenganger.
    So, despite the possibility that the events are connected being the one-and-only reason Corbyn mentioned them in the same sentence, you cling to the claim that he meant they were equivalent. Despite the fact there is no indication in anything he said that he thinks that way. You’re basically projecting your opinion of Jeremy Corbyn onto his motives.

    But Marduk #45 summarises perfectly. I have nothing more to add except that English could have done this:
    “Tragedy (but mostly affecting brown people, so for some, not so tragic) on tragedy (a really, really bad one) on tragedy (not in the way you’re assuming, but I’ll clarify in a minute)”. I think the original is snappier though and immediately clear to anyone that listens/reads without malice.

  45. StillGjenganger says

    @Blattafrax 47
    I think that my interpretation is what most reasonable people would conclude from Corbyns words. And that he most likely meant it that way – the alternative would be that he made a mistake and for some reason did not chose to fix it in the obvious way, by saying clearly and explicitly that the original attack was morally in a different category from the killing of Bin Laden.

    But we simply disagree here, and we are both out of new arguments. We have to let people who read this (if any) decide who the believe.

  46. ligne says

    I think that my interpretation is what most reasonable people would conclude from Corbyns words.

    and i think it’s the most obtuse possible spin you could take on it.

    for some reason did not chose to fix it in the obvious way, by saying clearly and explicitly that the original attack was morally in a different category from the killing of Bin Laden.

    …or maybe he thought that people weren’t so monumentally stupid they needed to be told that the assassination of a mass-murdering terrorist was less bad than the deaths of countless thousands of innocent civilians?

    but he clearly underestimated the pathetic, vindictive puerility of Conservative politicians and their pet media.

  47. Lucy says

    BecomingJulie

    “From the age of about 6 years, I have wondered — and nobody has ever been able to give me a satisfactory explanation — why grown-ups continue to make such a show of pretending to believe in a God.”

    It’s a social ritual. A bonding activity. We’re pack animals.

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